While it is widely recognized that the advanced architecture of the 1970s left a legacy of experimentation and theoretical speculation as intense as any in architecture's history, there has been no general theory of that ethos. Now, in Architecture's Desire, K. Michael Hays writes an account of the "late avant-garde" as an architecture systematically twisting back on itself, pondering its own historical status, and deliberately exploring architecture's representational possibilities right up to their absolute limits.
Architect Léon Krierâ€™s doodles, drawings, and ideograms make arguments in images, without the circumlocutions of prose. Drawn with wit and grace, these clever sketches do not try to please or flatter the architectural establishment. Rather, they make an impassioned argument against what Krier sees as the unquestioned doctrines and unacknowledged absurdities of contemporary architecture.
As we spend more and more of our time staring at the screens of movies, televisions, computers, and handheld devices—"windows" full of moving images, texts, and icons—how the world is framed has become as important as what is in the frame. In The Virtual Window, Anne Friedberg examines the window as metaphor, as architectural component, and as an opening to the dematerialized reality we see on the screen.
Born in Tokyo, educated in Japan and the United States, and principal of an internationally acclaimed architectural practice, celebrated architect Fumihiko Maki brings to his writings on architecture a perspective that is both global and uniquely Japanese. Influenced by post-Bauhaus internationalism, sympathetic to the radical urban architectural vision of Team X, and a participant in the avant-garde movement Metabolism, Maki has been at the forefront of his profession for decades.
Learning from Las Vegas, originally published by the MIT Press in 1972, was one of the most influential and controversial architectural books of its era. Thirty-five years later, it remains a perennial bestseller and a definitive theoretical text. Its authors—architects Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour—famously used the Las Vegas Strip to argue the virtues of the "ordinary and ugly" above the "heroic and original" qualities of architectural modernism.
Contemporary architecture is in many ways a monstrous thing. It is bigger, more broadly defined, increasingly complicated, more costly, and stylistically and formally heterogeneous—if not downright unhinged. Not only is the scale of the built environment expanding, but so is the territory of the architectural profession itself. A perfect storm of history, technology, economics, politics, and pedagogy has generated a moment in time in which anything seems possible. The results have been at times strange and even frightening.
Artifacts (including works of architecture) play dual roles; they simultaneously perform functions and carry meaning. Columns support roofs, but while the sturdy Tuscan and Doric types traditionally signify masculinity, the slim and elegant Ionic and Corinthian kinds read as feminine. Words are often inscribed on objects. (On a door: "push" or "pull.") Today, information is digitally encoded (dematerialized) and displayed (rematerialized) to become part of many different objects, at one moment appearing on a laptop screen and at another, perhaps, on a building facade (as in Times Square).
Architecture, at least since the beginning of the twentieth century, has suspended historical references in favor of universalized abstraction. In the decades after the Second World War, when architectural historians began to assess the legacy of the avant-gardes in order to construct a coherent narrative of modernism's development, they were inevitably influenced by contemporary concerns.
I, like you, drive too much. I buy too much—of which I keep too much and also throw too much away. I overindulge my children, and myself. Directly as well as indirectly I use too much water, energy, air and space. My existence, in short, costs the planet more than it can afford. This is not some handed-down moral stricture, nor any sort of guilty self-flagellation, but a simple recognition of fact. The consequences are obvious, and near enough now to see the warts on their noses. For my own future, as well as my children's, I must change.
In Enduring Innocence, Keller Easterling tells the stories of outlaw "spatial products"—resorts, information technology campuses, retail chains, golf courses, ports, and other hybrid spaces that exist outside normal constituencies and jurisdictions, in difficult political situations around the world. These spaces—familiar commercial formulas of retail, business, and trade—aspire to be worlds unto themselves, self-reflexive and innocent of politics. But as Easterling shows, these enclaves can become political pawns and objects of contention.